Power BI vs Excel

Updated on January 2, 2024
Article byJeevan A Y
Edited byAshish Kumar Srivastav
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

Difference Between Power BI and Excel

Power BI and Excel have many similarities in terms of functionalities and how the data is presented or how we make the connection with the other data sources. Excel is much easier to use than Power BI, but Power BI has a certain upper hand, like better visualization. We should also remember that Excel is very limited to sharing reports which Power BI overcomes.

Power BI is a business analytics tool from Microsoft that helps build various dashboards and reports and can quickly deal with millions of rows of data. In contrast, Excel is also a tool from Microsoft with various built-in tools and functions that we can use for mathematical calculations, iterations, forecasting, and creating graphs and charts.

Key Differences

  1. Data Size: One of the key differences is handling the capacity of data quantity. With Power BI, we can handle millions of rows together with fast speed, but with Excel, it is frustrating to handle large amounts of data.
  1. Cloud-Based Features: Once the dashboard building completes in Power BI, we can publish the report to the end-users with Microsoft’s cloud-based services. But, when it comes to Excel, we need to share the large data with the dashboard via email or any online sharing tool.
  1. Visualizations: In Power BI, we have plenty of visualizations to design the dashboard, but with excel, we have only limited visualizations.
  2. Custom Visualizations: Power BI allows us to import visualizations that are not there in the file by going to the marketplace, but Excel does not have that luxury.

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Comparative Table

ItemPower BIExcel
AvailabilityPower BI is a recent product, so you cannot see this with all Excel users.Excel is everywhere and available to most people.
LearningPower BI is not that easy. It requires considerable knowledge of Power Query and Power Pivot DAX formulas and techniques to use it.Who does not know Excel? Excel is the universal language spoken in almost all the offices worldwide. Because Excel has been around for a long time, most users find it easy to learn.
Cost to AcquirePower BI Desktop is free to download and use for personal use, but it takes  $10 per month per user to share reports with others.Since we already have Excel, we need to spend additional money to procure this and build dashboards.
Working FlexibilityPower BI is not flexible, especially if it just shifted from Excel to Power BI. You cannot do everything, everywhere.Excel is flexible to use and create summary reports in simple steps and formulas.
VisualsPower BI has a wide variety of visualizations. We can import many other visuals from the marketplace besides available built-in charts.Excel has only a few built-in charts, and we need to work with only those charts to build dashboards.
Chart CustomizationPower BI does not have the luxury of customizing a chart to the full extent. Therefore, if you are working with one set of charts, you can only work with that chart.Excel is special. We can create another set of charts only using built-in charts. For example, a thermometer chart.
Dashboard InteractivityPower BI not only has slicers but also has a wide variety of other slicers. Cross filters, visual level filters, report level filters, and drillthrough filters.Excel has slicers to make the dashboards interactive with the user.
Size of the DataPower BI can handle large amounts of data with the Power Pivot engine model. More importantly, it does not restrict to any specific versions of Excel or Office 365.Excel struggles to handle a large amount of data and often says “Not Responding” error with a large quantity of data.
AccessibilityPower BI cannot be accessible everywhere unless you have licensed software.We can access Excel from everywhere, and it is an easy software to start learning dashboard skills.
Formula LanguagePower BI uses DAX language for its formulas and functions.Excel uses the MDX language for its formulas and functions.
Data SecurityWith Power BI, we can restrict the data view to individuals by setting rules.When you share the dashboard with external stakeholders, you need to share it with data, which does not guarantee data security.
Data SourcePower BI also has Power Query; it can fetch data from everywhere.Excel can get data from everywhere with Power Query.


Although both are beautiful products of Microsoft, the modern era needs quick and easy insights from the data. Of course, Excel will not vanish anytime soon, but at least the dashboard building part for a large amount of data is already taken over by Power BI.

The future of Power BI looks promising and bright. So, you can consider investing your time and money in learning this because, in the modern world, companies are largely using data visualization tools. So, it is time to be a Power BI superstar at your office.

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